Monday, June 29, 2020

Iraq’s PM Gives Warning To Kataib Hezbollah To Stop Rocket Attacks In Baghdad


In June Iraq opened talks with the United States over a new security agreement. Pro-Iran Hashd units responded with a series of rocket attacks upon targets in Baghdad that housed Americans like the International Airport and the Green Zone. Prime Minister Mustafa Kazemi said that these incidents would not be tolerated. When they continued the Counter Terror Service launched a raid against Kataib Hezbollah sending a warning that the premier would not accept these continued security violations.

In June there have been seven rocket attacks in Baghdad. Starting on June 8, the Green Zone and the Taji Base in the north have been hit twice each, while the Baghdad International Airport has been struck three times. Additionally, rockets were discovered aimed at Camp Taji. In response, the Joint Operations Command warned on June 14 that it would not stand for attacks on military bases, followed by two further statements by the prime minister that further incidents would not be tolerated. As the attacks went unabated PM Kazemi decided to give a sterner message.

Date
Target
Jun 8
Baghdad International Airport
Jun 10
Green Zone
Jun 13
Taji Base
Jun 14
Taji Base
Jun 15
Baghdad International Airport
Jun 18
Green Zone
Jun 22
Baghdad International Airport

On the night of June 25 the Counter Terror Service (CTS) raided Kataib Hezbollah’s headquarters in southern Baghdad. Rockets were seized and 13 members were arrested including three commanders and possibly three members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The head of Kataib Hezbollah Abu Fadak responded by organizing a convoy of his men and members of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and drove to the Green Zone where they went to the CTS offices to protest. Negotiations then ensued and the detainees were turned over to the security directorate of the Hashd Commission. Pro-Iran Hashd groups considered this a victory because the security directorate is run by a Kataib Hezbollah leader.

This raises the question of why PM Kazemi chose this fight with Kataib Hezbollah. This didn’t appear to be the start of an effort to bring the Hashd al-Shaabi under government control hence the release of the Kataib Hezbollah members to the Hashd Commission. It could simply be a sterner warning to Kataib Hezbollah that its rocket attacks in the capital will have repercussions. Previous premiers did nothing about these incidents, but Kazemi apparently had enough. Rockets being fired every couple days in Baghdad hurts the image of Iraq and flouts the authority of the state. Firing at Taji Base also threatens the lives of the security forces that run the facility. If this was a limited matter it was still a first for the authorities to try to reign in the Pro-Iran groups who have been able to do what they wanted over the last several years.

SOURCES

Al Aalem, “Al Aalem reveals steps that preceded the storming of the battalions headquarters in Baghdad,” 6/27/20
- “The anti-terror service released 13 detainees from Kataib Hezbollah after they were arrested today,” 6/26/20

Aldroubi, Mina, “Iraq will not let ‘outlaws’ threaten stability, Prime Minister says,” The National, 6/18/20

Asharq Al-Awsat, “Iraq Security Forces Arrest Dozens of Kataib Hezbollah Members in Baghdad Raid,” 6/26/20

France 24, "Rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone for the fifth time in ten days," 6/18/20

Ghafuri, Lawk, “Iraqi counter terrorism forces raid Kataib Hezbollah headquarter in Baghdad,” Rudaw, 6/26/20
- “Kadhimi calls emergency security force meeting after Baghdad rocket attacks,” Rudaw, 6/17/20

Haboush, Joseph and Serrieh, Joanne, “Iran-backed Katai’b Hezbollah spokesman threatens Iraqi PM following overnight raids,” Al Arabiya, 6/26/20

Al Hurra, “Abu Khomeini and others arrested … A source reveals to Al Hurra website behind the scenes of the daring night arrests,” 6/26/20

Iraq Newspaper, “Here you go, you will be guided! Shia scholars condemn the referral of Iraqi Hezbollah members on charges of terrorism and their death sentences in accordance with Article 4 of terrorism law,” 6/27/20

Knights, Michael, “Testing Iraq’s Ability to Crack Down on Anti-U.S. Terrorism,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy,” 6/26/20

Al Maalomah, “Sheikh Khazeli: The arrest of members of the crowd by the Prime Minister by the counter-terror service is a complete mess,” 6/26/20

Al Monitor, "Iraqi forces thwart rocket attack near US troops," 6/16/20
- "Three Katyusha rockets land near Baghdad's airport," 6/16/20

NINA, "Explosions Heard Near Al-Taji Camp, North Of Baghdad," 6/14/20
- "A Missile Hits The Green Zone / More," 6/10/20

NRT, "Two Rockets Fall In Iraq's Taji Base, No Casualties Reported: News Agency," 6/13/20

Shafaaq News, "A missile landed in the vicinity of Baghdad International Airport," 6/8/20
- “New details about the fate of Kataib Hezbollah members arrested in Baghdad,” 6/26/20

Sherwani, Halgurd, "Rocket lands inside Baghdad International Airport," 6/23/20

Al Sumaria, “Spokesman for the Commander in Chief: The arrest of the rocket squad aimed at restoring the prestige of the Iraqi state,” 6/27/20

Xinhua, “Iraqi military warns militias against attacking military bases,” 6/14/20


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